Hoary Marmot

Hoary Marmot, Vancouver Island, BC
Hoary Marmot, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Robert Logan

The Vancouver Island marmot is Canada’s most endangered mammal. These marmots can grow to lengths of 70 cm, and weigh up to 7 kg. They have a short snout, with a black, flattened nose. Their eyes are small, but they have great hearing, in spite of their small ears.

Marmots’ feet are used for grasping food & other objects. Their tails are bushy – similar to those found in squirrels. The coats of these marmots are dark brown, and their foreheads, muzzles, & chests are white.

Vancouver Island marmots are very vocal and have 3 distinct alarm calls, that vary in pitch. They trill and whistle, making sounds like no other marmot – a little like “keewaaaaaa”. The Vancouver Island marmot is found only on the Island – in the central mountains, logged-out areas, upland fields, & thick alder meadows. In 1972, 15 mountains on Vancouver Island had marmot colonies – now there are considerably less. There seems to be no reason for their abandoning these mountains, which otherwise appear to be good marmot habitats.

These marmots live in underground burrows, spending a great deal of time there. They hibernate from September to April, only leaving to feed in the early morning and late evening.

Vancouver Island marmots live in colonies consisting of one older male, a few mature females, several adolescents, and any pups born during the year. They reach sexual maturity at 3 – 4 years of age, and mate in spring, having 3 -5 pups. Because a female mates every few years, she only has around 10 pups during her lifetime. Lifespans for these marmots are 5 – 6 years for males and 7 – 9 years for females. At one time, there were many Island marmots, but their numbers have been declining since 1910. There are currently less than 200 left.

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